Tomb Raider ★★★★

I hate reading reviews before I see a movie, but my wife read the io9 review and we talked about it a lot. “Tomb Raider Is a Solid Action Movie, But Not a Great Tomb Raider Movie,” wrote Germain Lussier. No clear reason is ever given for this conclusion. It seemed like the movie had all the Tomb Raider stuff so we tried to speculate about what might be missing.

I’m glad to report this is absolutely the most Tomb Raider-y Tomb Raider movie possible. It is absolutely unapologetic about it. Before the movie, I had tried to come up with what elements were necessary to make a thing Tomb Raider-like and they were all there in abundance. It doesn’t waste time trying to be like the games in ways that aren’t useful though. You could write a three-sentence plot summary that sounds like the 2013 game, but beyond that it’s very different.

There are several segments that feel right out of a video game. It might sound like I’m describing a bad thing here, but I am not. Most of these things are competent, engaging action scenes that just have a hint to nudge you into imagining what it might be like to play them.

That brings me to the one Tomb Raider-y thing this movie was lacking: it was not a video game. At times I found this to be a detriment—I just kept wishing I was playing it instead of watching it.

As it went on, though, it pulled me in more, and then there was one scene I really thought was perfect: Lara is trying to solve a puzzle. It’s a simple puzzle, but the movie gives her time to work it out both physically and verbally. It’s building tension but it’s also drawing you in—it wants you to solve this puzzle with her. It’s subtle but it works incredibly well.

I still like Tomb Raider best as a video game, but this is a solid movie version. I wouldn’t mind if the games borrowed a few ideas back from it. I’d even say this movie gives us the best Lara Croft out of all of them. She’s a lot like the version we see in the newer games, but better realized and more relatable—which actually makes her seem tougher than ever.